An Open Letter to Students: The Real World, the Talent Gap, and Your Future

Dear Students,

As a veteran professor, a common frustration I have is the limited amount of classroom time needed to cover all of the “required” content, leaving little time to discuss career-related topics, such as what to expect once you graduate and what’s expected of you at your first job. Many students only acquire this knowledge from hands-on experience or time spent with a mentor. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a few key topics I’ve conveyed to my students over the years. They also may be helpful to you as you take the next step into the professional world.

About the Real Worldbaby_boomers
Congratulations! You’re about to enter a growing profession that needs you: The accounting profession is rapidly growing in terms of the number of new jobs, and, at the same time, nearly 10,000 baby boomers will be retiring every day for the next 20 years, according to Pew Research Center. This is important because employers will look to you to fill these jobs.

In many ways, college has sheltered you – you enroll in the required courses, attend lectures, study your textbooks, prepare case studies, and perhaps perform some independent research. But that’s only part of what you need to do to succeed. Not only are you expected to know technical skills in the professional world, you’ll also need to have mastered numerous nontechnical skills including leadership, business acumen, strategic thinking/execution, change management, process improvement, and more.

The accounting profession is changing dramatically, and the expectation of accountants’ skills level is rising, along with expectations regarding their ability to contribute to the success of their organizations. The challenges you encounter in the business world will require you to draw upon the skills you learned in the classroom in an integrated manner, not in isolation as are often presented in class.

About the Talent Gap
The talent gap – also known as the Competency Crisis in accounting – arises when colleges’ curricula aren’t consistently aligned with the on-the-job demands for accounting and financial professionals.

Some schools are “CPA-schools,” training their students for entry-level public accounting jobs. That’s fine, except for the fact that more than half of students will transition to accounting and finance positions in companies within three years of graduation. In these positions, you’ll need a different skill set than those needed in public accounting positions. Often candidates are unprepared for these jobs.

To confront this issue, you should take courses that prepare you for a wide variety of positions in the field of accounting – this may include taking additional electives. You need to prepare for your lifelong career, not just your first job. In this regard, IMA has been working with schools to craft the curricula to provide a more-well-rounded skill set.

Preparing for YOUR Future
What can you do to ensure YOUR career success? Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure your college curriculum prepares you for a wide variety of career choices. Talk with your professors about the variety of accounting careers and what you should do to prepare for them.
  • Work on developing your “hard” and “soft” skills. For example, join and actively participate in the IMA student chapter at your school. (If there is none, start one!) You also can participate in IMA’s Student Case Competition or attend IMA’s Student Leadership Conference.
  • Use internships and mentorships to your advantage. Internships are a great way to gain necessary skills while building your résumé and networking with individuals in the field. Working in business and alongside industry leaders will give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs.

You have a huge opportunity for future career advancement. Once you have found your career path, there are many ways for you to expand your career horizon: earn a certification, become a mentor or mentee, take continuing education courses, earn a post-graduate degree, and so much more. Today’s accountants are expected to continuously learn to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment. Welcome to the exciting field of professional accountancy!

The profession needs strong talent for the future. Will you be ready?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related Articles:

“Plan for the Future: A Career in Management Accounting” – Jeff Thomson, New Accountant
“Filling Jobs Wisely” – Doug Arms and Tony Bercik, Strategic Finance

De-MYTH-defying the Accounting Profession

Over the years, the accounting profession has accumulated a number of misconceptions, and it’s important for students choosing their career path to decipher the facts from the myths. Let me help you de-myth-defy the profession to clarify the role of the accountant and help advance the profession.

1. All accountants do taxes.
This is one of most common misconceptions about accountants. Although most people attracted to accounting like the numbers aspect of it, there are so many other paths you can take with an accounting or finance degree – becoming a tax preparer is only one of them.

Because many college curricula focus on public accounting – hence the misconception – it’s sometimes difficult to decide your path while you’re still in school. Once you’re in the field, however, the hands-on experience will help you decide what specialty is right for you.

S11_LENA_0432. Accounting is a male-dominated profession.
Contrary to popular belief, the field is actually dominated by women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women accounted for 61% of accountants and auditors in 2014. And women are earning the majority of bachelor’s degrees (52%) and master’s degrees (54%) in accounting.

3. Accountants don’t make important financial decisions.
Management accountants are increasingly becoming strategic business partners for their companies. Not only can we interpret the financials of the company, but we’re also able to advise top management on opportunities to grow the company, impacting the overall direction of the company and helping to maximize profits. Our skills in performance measurement, analysis, and risk management help organizations prosper in a sustainable way. We have gone from “bean counters” to “bean growers.”

4. You can’t make good money as an accountant.
IMA’s Global Salary Survey reveals that accountants’ average annual salary is $100,000 in the U.S. (the map in the survey report (Figure 1 below) shows the average salary and compensation rates from all over the world). Top management like CFOs and controllers are some of the highest-paid employees in a company – and they are accountants!

Also, holding certifications can increase your annual salary and compensation. This year, professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential reported earning an average of 63% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers. Certifications help increase your salary because they demonstrate your mastery of the critical skills needed on the job today.

Basic CMYK

For the Future
Accountants are in high demand, and the benefits are considerable. When starting your career in accounting, consider the various opportunities open to you. One last myth to note about accounting is that it’s boring. It is anything but – believe or not, a career in management accounting can actually be exciting! Our work with budgets and strategy help a business drive value and make the work of nonprofit organizations possible. The accountants of tomorrow have an enormous opportunity for growth and career enrichment. How will you impact your future?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

Related Articles
Management Accounting Facts & Myths – Competency Crisis
“IMA Campus Advocate Discusses Benefits of Student Chapters” – IMA Online News

Advocate Spotlight: Gerhard Mueller and Zhang Xinmin

Advocacy is very important to the success of IMA and the global expansion of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential and the management accounting profession. As part of our advocacy program, every year we award individual advocates (members and nonmembers) for enforcing IMA’s mission and values around the world.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge a few outstanding people who helped make IMA the organization it is today. They make the moments matter for students, academics, and professionals around the world. This year’s winners of our Distinguished Advocate Awards are Gerhard Mueller and Zhang Xinmin.

gerhard mueller

Gerhard Mueller, CPA, Ph.D.
Gerhard (Gary) Mueller is a retired accounting professor at University of Washington, Seattle. He is known as the Father of International Accounting Education because of his early advocacy of international accounting recognition and education. Gary is also a former member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Although Gary isn’t an IMA member, he has advocated on behalf of IMA for many years. It began with the publication of his book A New Introduction to Accounting in 1971, his involvement in the Accounting Education Change Commission in 1989, and culminated in his support of IMA’s Consortium for Accounting Education Improvement, which produced the 1995 and 1999 Practice Analysis of Management Accounting.

zhang xinminZhang Xinmin
Zhang is the vice president of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, China, and is a board member of the Accounting Society of China (ASC). He is well-known for having founded financial reporting quality analysis theory.

Zhang has helped IMA sign a strategic alliance contract with UIBE and has helped establish IMA’s Chinese Education Steering Committee, which promotes the management accounting education system established by IMA’s Higher Endorsement Program. With Zhang’s advocacy, interest in IMA and the CMA program has grown, and continues to grow, in China.

Advocating for the Future
On behalf of IMA members, IMA’s advocacy committees engage and suggest solutions to standard setters and regulatory agencies, such as the FASB, Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), and others.

In addition, our Campus Advocate Program allows academic leaders to be ambassadors for IMA. Campus Advocates are the key link between IMA and their college/university. They help shape the future of their students and the management accounting profession.

For me advocacy means supporting a cause or proposal in a way that results in a positive influence toward the cause. In the world of management accounting, advocacy efforts make a positive impact if they result in relieving management accountants from less complex accounting standards and financial disclosures. What does advocacy mean to you?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles:

IMA Announces Winners of 2015 Annual Global Awards and Lifetime Achievement Award – IMA

Tips of the Trade: Making an Impactful Speech

As IMA’s President and CEO, delivering speeches and presentations to the IMA community are part of my daily job description. One instance in particular is the speech I make at the Annual Meeting of Members during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. Every year I try to make my speech more dynamic and impactful than the previous year. But you don’t need the experience of a CEO to make a powerful presentation. Here are a few things I keep in mind when preparing a speech or presentation.

bill presenting

Each year, the Chair, Chair-Elect, and I make a speech at the Annual Dinner during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. This is Bill Knese, former IMA Chair (2014-2015), making his speech last year.

Know Your Audience – It’s All about Them, Not You
IMA members come to the Annual Meeting for a few reasons, one of them being to hear about how the organization has performed on their behalf and what the future holds. It’s much like a meeting of shareholders in that sense; increasing the value of your membership investment in IMA is top of mind. The information isn’t always stimulating, but members get necessary and valuable information out of this meeting. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Avoid Tangents
Become very familiar with your speech or presentation before you take the stage – know your topic like the back of your hand. This will help you learn the flow of topics so that you can at least have a mental outline of your speech and “flex” (or be adaptable) to the needs of your audience. Also, keep in mind your time limit. Your audience might lose interest if you go on a tangent. Depending on the audience size and formality of the speech or presentation, you may want to ask your audience to hold questions until the end of your presentation to avoid tangents.

Be Personable, Be Genuine
Adding anecdotes to your speech or presentation helps your audience relate to the topics you’re talking about and, therefore, better understand the points you’re trying to make. Authenticity is key for making a connection with your audience – they’ll get to know you better, and you’ll be reassured that they understand the points you’re conveying. We are all human, and demonstrating you can walk in the shoes of your audience makes you more relatable and therefore influential.

animated presenter

It’s important to accompany your presentation with visuals and to be passionate about the topic you’re speaking about. This presenter from last year’s Conference loves public speaking!

Engage Your Audience
The content of your speech isn’t the only thing that matters. Engaging your audience is important for making a lasting impression and reinforcing the points of your speech. You can do so in a few ways: ask questions to facilitate conversation, ask for their feedback or opinion on a topic, or encourage interactive exercises in small groups. You should also include visuals in your presentation to keep the audience stimulated.

All in All, Be Passionate
These tips are worthless unless you’re passionate about the topic you’re presenting. This will make the experience more memorable for your audience, and they will more easily connect with your message. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re presenting to an audience of 1,000 or a small room of coworkers.

What are your tips for delivering an impactful presentation? What was your most recent speech/presentation about?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

RELATED ARTICLES:

Five Easy Tricks to Make Your Presentation Interactive – Forbes
Preparing a Speech – Toastmasters International

Memorable Conferences: How to Make Them Last

As IMA’s Professor-in-Residence, I travel to at least six conferences per year around the world to speak about accounting education, to advance accounting practice, and to network with like-minded professionals. I just got back from Budapest where I attended the General Assembly of the International Group of Controlling (IGC), of which IMA is a member. It was a great meeting that offered informative presentations and many opportunities for knowledge sharing with a beautiful city as the backdrop. These factors made the meeting memorable for me because they all contribute to my being able to help advance the management accounting profession. Here are a few more thoughts on how to make your conference experience more memorable.

bill rancic

KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Typically, well-known speakers draw attendees to conferences. Hearing from passionate, animated industry experts make the sessions a lot more interesting and memorable. To this end, IMA hosts popular and inspiring speakers at our Annual Conference & Expo. This year Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s will talk about being an entrepreneur, J.R. Martinez will talk about rising above our challenges, and Stephen Dubner will expand our view about business issues. Each has his own way of passing on knowledge and best practices to the next generation of business professionals.

It’s also important to hear the speaker’s insights to stimulate your thinking and provide you with ideas to bring back home. For instance, at the meeting in Budapest, Péter Horváth had a session about management accounting vs. controlling – the German version of management accounting. Horváth is considered the “Father of German Controlling,” and he had thought-provoking insights regarding the relationship between controlling, management accounting, management control systems, and performance measurement. This was followed by a cutting-edge presentation by Professor Dr. Klaus Möller on controlling innovation. Passionate, informed speakers such as these lead engaging, interactive sessions, so choose a speaker you’re interested in and ask questions. That will make your conference experience even more memorable!

BRING HOME THE VALUE
The most memorable part of a conference is the knowledge and value you bring back to your company, and value comes in many forms. The conferences I attend allow me to promote IMA and the management accounting profession while developing long-term relationships. At these meetings I form relationships with academics and practitioners from around the world, discuss emerging practices, and connect with possible future business partners. Attending these face-to-face meetings shows your peers that you’re truly dedicated to your profession and passionate about the work you do.

Raef-conference

You can also see the reach of your profession through the many conference attendees. For example, in Budapest I was able to learn first-hand the state of management accounting in many countries and how it’s developing among the local practitioners. It expanded my understanding of how management accounting is practiced globally, and the role IMA can play in advancing our profession.

EXPAND YOUR VIEW
There are many ways to make your conference experience memorable. Whether you attend for the people, location, or sessions, conferences help broaden your career horizon and also help you grow on both personal and professional levels. At the end of the day, attending a conference says a lot about you – that you’re passionate about your career, that you’re dedicated to your profession, and that you choose to increase your professional knowledge. Make it a point this year to attend at least one conference in your field to prove to yourself and your peers that you’re serious about your future.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related articles:
How to Choose Which Conferences to Attend – Intuit QuickBooks
TED Founder Reveals How You Can Create a Memorable Event – American Express

Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

Continuing Education10492588_10152329086225829_6431722515604022926_n

I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

Networking
There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

Related Articles:
“6 Secrets to Better Networking at Conferences” – Dave Kerpen, LinkedIn
“4 Reasons Your Employees Should Attend Conferences” – Janine Popick, Inc. Magazine

Top Technology Trends for Management Accountants

There’s no doubt that technology plays a huge role in business today, including in accounting and finance. New technologies will always emerge, which can make it confusing for businesses to focus on the most relevant ones. Not all technology trends will necessarily apply to management accounting and finance; so it’s necessary to filter through and match solutions to your company’s unique needs.

IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee recently undertook some research and analysis to gather market literature and insight into a full slate of technology trends in an effort to filter through and find those most meaningful to management accountants. This short list of technology trends will serve as the basis for resources in order to understand these technologies and how they apply to management accountants.  Here are the trends identified by the committee for 2015-2016.

SEO optimization, programming process1.    Business Intelligence and Analytics
With mountains of both structured and unstructured Big Data growing daily, companies must glean meaning from the most relevant data to drive decision making. Powerful cloud-based tools exist to help companies perform advanced analytics (e.g., predictive and prescriptive analytics) to gain intelligence about the business and more insight into where it’s headed.


2.    Data Governance

A sound data governance strategy sets the foundation for a company to ensure its information assets are accessible, usable for analysis, and of the highest quality and reliability. If data can’t be used or trusted, it’s almost worthless to the company. Data governance strategies, which are now growing in practice, help companies define the proper controls and monitoring systems to ensure access, utility, and quality.

3.    Mobile Computing
As smartphones and tablets evolve, so will the environment they occupy. Your office will be virtual – wherever you can connect to the Internet. vector illustration of mobile optimization and analyticsSmartwatches and other wearable gadgets are also catching up in usability and allow for constant connectivity to your work space.

4.    Big Data
With the increase in mobile computing and growth of our digital footprint comes an increase in Big Data. You will need optimal analytics skills and tools to process such data efficiently and effectively to make appropriate business decisions.

5.    Cloud
Today, nearly 50% of U.S. businesses use the cloud. You may already use it in your day-to-day work, but companies that don’t currently use cloud technology will be left behind this year. There are many options to choose from to fit your company’s specific needs.

6.    Internet of Things
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to the connection of more and more devices to the Internet, including household devices like thermostats and TVs and business tools like vehicle fleets. IoT generates both more Big Data (to be filtered through) and intelligence about the business, which helps bring greater efficiency and process improvement, among other benefits, to businesses.

7.    Cyber and Physical Security
The increase in cybercrime over the past few years has proved how important it is to protect your company’s data. Not only will you need to improve your risk assessment and management tools, but you’ll also need to properly secure your physical infrastructure.

8.    Smart Machines and Automation
This year will push smart machines ahead of the curve. With the ability to learn and adapt to their environment, there are no limits to what they can do. Companies should know how to use this ever-evolving artificial intelligence to their advantage.

Which trends are on your company’s radar? Have you had to make any changes to your systems or processes?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 – Forbes
Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change – IMA, ACCA